The Islamic Openings
The Iberian Peninsula was governed by the Visigoths, who invaded it in the year 414 C.E. They dominated the northeastern area and were Christians. After a hundred years or more, they succeeded in establishing a united kingdom that dominated all the Iberian Peninsula, in addition to a small piece of land in southern France.
It is worth saying that the succeeding Visigoth kings had only weak control over the land. Because of their invading and taking the land by force, many conflicts took place between them and the natives. This resulted in the existence of the nobility that were favored by the throne. They had the responsibility to form a powerful and capable army to defend the king and the country.
Apart from the nobles were the natives of the land who were of Spanish origin. In addition, there were large numbers of farmers and others who suffered various kinds of misery and hardships in their lives. This resulted in the corruption, poor conditions and injustice that prevailed in the land. Social injustice was a daily complaint because of the exploitation of the lower ranks by the higher ones, and people grumbled about the rulers. Hostility and vengeance spread between the various categories of people.
The disunity of the people was increased by the struggle for the throne. Some historic references mentioned that a son and his father ruled the Iberian Peninsula since 687 C.E. The son, Winza, intended to have one of his sons, Akhila, to succeed him on the throne, so he gave him a dukedom in the northeast section of the kingdom and made him the crown prince. After the death of Winza in 710 C.E., the nobles refused to accept Akhila and chose Roderick as king from among themselves.
However, Akhila kept his dukedom and coined his own money. He considered Roderick a thief and managed to dethrone him and seize the kingdom himself. Roderick fought more than one battle against Akhila. When the Muslims landed in Spain, he was engaged in a war in the north. Some historic sources mentioned about the opening of Spain that Akhila contacted Tariq ibn Ziyad, who was camping in Tanjah with an army of twelve thousand men. The message was, "My father died and a noble patriarch called Roderick seized the throne unlawfully. I have heard about your power and I invite you to invade Spain and I will be your guide to it."
Thus, we see the divisions between the nobles. The miserable subjects who were suffering from oppression looked to the Muslims as saviors who would save them from tyranny and injustice.
The Arrangements of the Opening
After Hassan ibn Al-Nu'man Al-Ghassani overcame the rebellion of The Soothsayer, he had authority over all the land of Ifriqiyah (North Africa). And when Musa ibn Nusair took over, he resumed the military operations in Ifriqiyah. He fought many campaigns that forced the entire North African coast to yield to the Muslims. He spread stability and peace allover the land, and the only city that remained beyond his authority was the Byzantine city of Sebtah, which was under the sovereignty of a Byzantine ruler called Julian. Later, he concluded a pact with the Muslim leaders on behalf of Sebtah and, thus, he retained his position and supplied the Muslims with material aid, advice and information.
In the year 91 A.H. (710 C.E.), Musa ibn
Nusair won the approval of Caliph Al-Walid ibn Abdul Malik to open Spain on the condition that there first be an exploratory operation. Musa sent Tarif ibn Malik, one of his generals, with four hundred infantrymen and a hundred cavalrymen to raid on the coasts of the south of Spain. They embarked in six ships, which anchored near a small peninsula known now as Green Island or Tarif's Island. The raid of Tarif ibn Malik was a success and the spoils were many. They returned bearing information about the unstable conditions of the land. This motivated Musa to execute the planned opening.
The Advance towards the Opening
Musa had a Berber servant named Tariq ibn Ziyad whom he joined to his army. In 92 A.H., Musa ibn Nusair sent Tariq ibn Ziyad at the head of seven thousand fighters, most of whom were Berbers, to invade the Iberian Peninsula. Then he reinforced them with five thousand more Berbers.
Tariq ibn Ziyad crossed the sea with his army, then determined to bum the ships. It was also said that Tariq ordered the ships to return to North Africa to bring reinforcements. He anchored near a huge mountain which still bears his name, together with the strait (Gibraltar, Jabl Tariq in Arabic).
Tariq then delivered a speech to his army: "The sea is behind you, the enemy is in front of you, and nothing is left to you except truthfulness and patience." When Tariq landed with his army in the south of Spain in Rajab 92 A.H. (April 711 C.E.), Roderick was absent with his army to establish a base in the northern part of the peninsula.
The Battle of Lake Valley
When Roderick knew about Tariq, he was furious and returned to his land, gathering a large force of nearly a hundred thousand fighters to resist Tariq. The two parties encountered in a battle called Lake Valley on 28 Ramadan 92 A.H.
The grave battle lasted for eight consecutive days. They fought seriously and many were killed so that the people thought it was a day of perishing and no one would survive. Allah assured His pious servants, and the enemy was defeated and Tariq and his army achieved victory.
The Muslims pursued their enemies and killed Roderick. It was said that he drowned in the river in the Valley of Mud. The Muslims pounced on the backs of the enemies and killed and injured them. Although the mountain was difficult, the Muslims were quick to catch their enemies and chased them everywhere till they finished them.
In this battle, Tariq ibn Ziyad put an end to the major military power of the Visigoths. He caused their governmental and political system to collapse in Spain. This battle was also the most difficult one in Spain, for the Muslims did not face anything similar afterwards.
Tariq camped at a spring or well that is still called after him, four miles from Istijah. Tariq realized that opening Spain had become easy and nothing stood in the way to achieving his goals. Tariq advanced towards Cordoba and opened it. Then he marched towards Toledo, the capital city and one of the most important centers. He faced some resistance but finally succeeded to open it.
Afterwards, he marched to the Valley of Rocks and crossed a mountain, reaching a city that lay behind a mountain called the City of the Table. There he found the table of Prophet Sulaiman ibn Dawud (peace be on them). It was of green emerald and its edges and legs were inlaid with pearls, corals and rubies. It had three hundred sixty erect legs.
The only remaining city was Sakasta, so he sent some exploratory troops to it.
Musa ibn Nusair opens Ishbiliyah
When Musa ibn Nusair learned about the triumph Allah had granted His servant Tariq ibn Ziyad, he moved to share in the opening. He went from Ifriqiyah to Tanjah, then crossed the sea with eighteen thousand fighters in Ramadan 93 A.H. (July 712 C.E.). He advanced with his army towards Ishbiliyah, which was one of the greatest cities of Spain in its architecture and was full of historical relics. He besieged it for months and opened it after great resistance and fierce struggle. Afterwards, he proceeded to Mardah to the north of Ishbiliyah, where the remaining Visigoth troops that had retreated were residing. He besieged it, also.
The people of Mardah came out and fought boldly against Musa ibn Nusair. Musa and his army hid from them between the rocks, so the Visigoths did not see them. In the early hours of the next day, Musa marched towards them, and, as usual, they came out to combat the Muslims. But Musa and his troops left their hiding places and blocked the way between them and their city. They had a desperate encounter and few people survived.
Musa resumed the siege and achieved the opening on the day of 'Id Al-Fitr 94 A.H. He concluded a treaty with them that stated that all the possessions of the men slain on the day of the ambush, the properties of the runaways, and the churches with their fortunes belonged to the Muslims.
Musa ibn Nusair Meets Tariq ibn Ziyad
Musa ibn Nussair departed Mardah in Shawwal 94 A.H. heading to Toledo. Tariq came out to receive him and Musa rebuked him, "Why did you invade the land before taking my permission or at least informing me?" Tariq ibn Ziyad replied, "This opening is because of you and is yours, and I am only your servant."
Musa accepted his excuses and they marched together to Toledo, where they spent the winter of that year, 713-714 C.E. They started the first organization of the lands they had opened, and Musa coined the first Arab Islamic coins in Europe.
From Toledo, Musa ibn Nusair sent a messenger to Caliph Al-Walid ibn 'Abdul Malik in Damascus telling him all about the openings in Spain.
Musa and Tariq Return to Damascus
One year later, Musa ibn Ziyad marched towards Sarqasta and opened it, and from there they sent an exploratory expedition, which reached Arbona. The Visigoth kingdom encompassed lands in the southeast of France, in addition to lands on the Mediterranean. Musa then advanced with his troops and delved into the coastal area of Asturias. Tariq opened Lyon and the town of Ashturqah. He also forced Argonne to yield.
At that time, the messenger of Caliph Al-Walid ibn 'Abdul Malik arrived with an order for Musa to leave Spain and return to Damascus to meet the caliph. However, Musa delayed his departure and received another message urging him return to Damascus. Musa ibn Nusair met with Tariq ibn Ziyad, and they both returned to Caliph Al-Walid ibn `Abdul Malik.
The Reasons for the Caliph's Summons
The caliph wanted to know directly from Musa and Tariq about their victories in these lands. He also wanted to plan the future with them, as well as settle an account of the spoils and how much they used and spent of them. Perhaps the caliph felt that Musa was intending to declare his independence from the Sufyani reign, especially after he knew that Musa had appointed his son' Abdullah as governor of Ifriqiyah, his son 'Abdul Malik over Al-Maghrib, and his son 'Abdul `Aziz over Ishbiliyah, from which he could rule Spain.
Musa ibn Nusair Confined
In the winter of the year 95 A.H., Musa ibn Nusair and his servant Tariq ibn Ziyad departed from Spain. This was after Musa had appointed his son `Abdul Malik to govern Al-Maghrib and his elder son `Abdullah was in charge of Ifriqiyah. Musa and Tariq were accompanied by a huge caravan carrying many fortunes, treasures and jewels. The Caravan crossed Egypt and when they passed by Arish Musa received a message from Caliph Al-Walid asking him to hasten.
Musa and his company hurried till they reached Damascus. When Musa arrived there, he gave the fortunes and all that was loaded in the caravan to the caliph. Three days later, Caliph Al-Walid died and was succeeded by his brother Sulaiman ibn 'Abdul Malik, who was angry with Musa and imprisoned him and ordered severe punishment.
It was said that Musa ibn Nusair and Tariq ibn Ziyad entered Damascus with forty princes and noblemen of the Visigoth royal family. They were crowned and accompanied by a large number of leaders and captives loaded with abundant spoils and rare treasures.
Musa and Tariq entered Damascus in the year 96 A.H. (715 C.E.).
Caliph Al-Walid ibn 'Abdul Malik had ordered the greatest and most honored reception for the victorious generals in the Sufyani mosque, where hundreds of Spaniards and many captives showed their obedience to the Commander of the Faithful.
Many Years Later
Many years passed and many governors succeeded each other, for nearly twenty rulers governed Spain after the death of `Abdul 'Aziz ibn Musa ibn Nusair, who was appointed by his father before the latter departed to the caliph in Damascus.
The rule of some of those governors lasted for more than five years, and some of them were temporary until the caliph appointed someone else when his rule was short due to facing foreign wars by the vanquished Visigoths or civil wars.
Among the most famous governors were 'Abdul Rahman ibn 'Abdullah Al-Ghafiqi, who ruled from 112 to 114 A.H., and' Abdul Rahman ibn Mu'awiyah ibn Hashim ibn 'Abdul Malik, who was later known as Al-Dakhil.
During his rule, 'Abdul Rahman Al-Dakhil succeeded in overcoming the rebellions and civil conflicts that erupted continually. He also had a greater success in confronting the army of Charlemange after he and his armies crossed the Pyrenees Mountains. The Muslims defeated Charlemange's army and many noblemen were killed. Thus, 'Abdul Rahman Al-Dakhil was appreciated and highly admired by those who lived at his time, and Abu Ja'far Al-Mansur, the Abbassid caliph, called him the "Hawk of the Quraish".
After the death of `Abdul Rahman Al-Dakhil, many rulers succeeded each other till the reign of 'Abdul Rahman III, who called himself "Al-Nasir", meaning The Victorious.
Al-Nasir declared himself caliph in the year 716 A.H. What prompted him to take that step was the weakness of the Abbassid government in the east and the establishment of the Fatimid caliphate in Al-Maghrib. During the first twenty years of his reign, he succeeded in uniting Spain and restoring the sovereignty of the Muslims over it.